Dec 16, 2021 - World

U.S. blacklists world's largest commercial drone firm for Uyghur surveillance

Drone
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Treasury Department has added eight Chinese companies — including DJI, the world's largest commercial drone manufacturer — to an investment blacklist for actively supporting the "surveillance and tracking" of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China.

Why it matters: The U.S. is cracking down aggressively on virtually any company — American or Chinese — believed to be complicit in the Chinese government's genocide of Uyghur Muslims in the northwest region of Xinjiang. DJI is accused of providing surveillance drones to authorities that operate mass detention camps in Xinjiang.

Details ... The following companies were added on Thursday to the Treasury Department's "Chinese Military-Industrial Complex" list:

  • Cloudwalk Technology Co., Ltd.
  • Dawning Information Industry Co., Ltd.
  • Leon Technology Company Limited
  • Megvii Technology Limited
  • Netposa Technologies Limited
  • SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd.
  • Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co., Ltd.
  • Yitu Limited

The intrigue: As Axios reported in September, federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI and Secret Service purchased surveillance drones from DJI as recently as this year — despite the Pentagon warning that the company's products "pose potential threats to national security."

Driving the news: Earlier on Thursday, the Commerce Department added dozens of Chinese research institutes and tech companies to its own "entity list," which bars U.S. companies from selling them technology without a license.

  • The eight companies named to the Treasury's investment blacklist had already previously been designated to the entity list.
  • Congress on Thursday also passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans all imports from Xinjiang unless companies can prove with "clear and convincing evidence" that the products are not made with forced labor.

Go deeper ... Scoop: U.S. government bought risky Chinese drones

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